Many people love a story that makes the hair on the back of their neck stand up, sends shivers down their spine, or gives them goosebumps.
I recently watched a movie, The Uninvited (1944), starring Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey. The uninvited individual was a ghost. By 1944 standards, I’m sure it had a few people on the edge of their seats. There was no gore, no blood, and they used a minimum of special effects. It held a couple of surprises, too. It was a fun movie, even with ghosts.
How could a movie such as this give you goosebumps? You’d have to ask someone who saw it in 1944. (I wasn’t even a twinkle in my parents’ eyes yet. Just thought I’d throw that in.)
Everyone has something different that makes them uneasy. Thick fog or a moonless night can make one’s blood run cold because of the unknown element that might be hiding just out of sight.
In my opinion, a book can create the mood better than a movie because once again, the reader’s imagination is in play and might be working overtime. Imagination can actually be scarier than watching a blow by blow story on the big screen.
In real life, fear can be devastating. In a book, it can make you get up and make sure the windows are closed and the doors are locked. It can make you fidget in your chair. It can even cause a nervous giggle from time to time.
Certainly it’s not just ghosts, but a hidden room, a monster, a shadow (of course, it would be elongated for more drama), or a vicious animal can set the scene for fright night. Ordinary everyday things can cause alarm, too. Noises, a brief glimpse of something, a book that’s been moved and the character knows he or she didn’t move it.
I have two large yellow Labrador Retrievers who scare easily. The smoke detector started softly beeping the other night because it needed new batteries and one of the dogs barked furiously while the hair on her back stood on end. Even after we took the batteries out, she was nervous. My husband once stood in the dark and made a snorting noise at the dogs. Their yellow streak, and I don’t mean the color of their fur, was front and center. You would have thought they were being chased by a bear.
Many readers love the mystery of the unknown. They purposely search out books that will make them feel ill-at-ease. When they finish the book and put it down, they go in search of another such story. How many times have you patted your chest, willing your heart to slow down because of a fright?
The blood and guts portrayed in movies doesn’t scare me. It’s the unknown that leaves so much to our own thoughts. The phone might ring in the middle of the night, but when you answer it, the line is dead. A noise outside the window that turns out to be a branch blowing in the wind can set someone’s teeth on edge.
When I was a kid there was a show on TV (and earlier on the radio) that started with the sound of a creaking door. As soon as the creaking started, I ran out of the room, stuck my fingers in my ears and sang at the top of my lungs so I wouldn’t hear it. True story. If you’d ever heard me sing, you’d probably run out of the room and stick your fingers in your ears. That creaking door struck a chord in me that scared me and gave me nightmares. It figures that I can’t remember the name of that show. If anyone has an idea, please enlighten me.
The element of surprise can make me jump easier than anything else. What scares you? Do you like the graphic scenes or would you rather let your imagination take you to the heights of fear? Or do you find you don’t enjoy frightening moments?
Until next time, check your doors and windows, close the blinds while you’re reading a scary book, and don’t – I repeat don’t – look behind that creaking door.
CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website
CLICK HERE for a quick trip to Amazon.com